Biomarkers can indicate various aspects of our health and wellbeing. We asked our Senior Research Scientist Dr Elizabeth Fletcher, what biomarkers actually are and what role they can play when we are trying to manage our weight.
Dr Elizabeth Fletcher: Biomarkers are like little signatures in your blood. Your blood travels through all the parts of your body, and while it carries nutrients to your organs, it also collects waste and anything the organs don’t need. So, in the same way that when friends come back from a holiday with a golden tan, you know they were somewhere sunny - when blood goes through things like the heart, it picks up proteins (signatures) to say it has been there. In many ways a sample of blood is filled with signatures the way our passports can be filled with stamps, each stamp is specific to that location.
At Drop Bio Health, we use biomarkers as indicators of health and wellbeing. For example, Leptin is a biomarker and a protein produced by body fat. Therefore, Leptin levels are higher in overweight people.
Leptin regulates appetite, and its objective is to prevent people from losing weight - but it doesn’t work to limit increases in body weight.
Our data shows that long periods of high Leptin levels, like those found obese people, can result in Leptin resistance. Leptin resistance results in a decrease in the ability of Leptin to suppress appetite or increase the body’s energy use. Consequently, the main symptoms of Leptin resistance are constantly feeling hungry and eating more despite having adequate or excess body fat.
The latest scientific evidence suggests exercise and sleep quality can help lower leptin levels. So if your leptin levels are high, you can benefit from improving biomarkers related to sleep quality and fitness.
Our data also show Leptin biomarker levels decrease up to 2 months before people lose weight. So, in this instance, looking at Leptin levels can keep people motivated even when they don’t see the results of their weight loss efforts on the scales yet!
Dr Elizabeth Fletcher: As someone who has personally spent far too many days in doctor waiting rooms and pathology clinics, anything to improve this experience can only be a good thing!
But practically, this is Australia, and many of us don’t have easy access to a Doctor or Pathology clinic, and even if we do, the hours they are open just don’t work with our busy lives. I see so many benefits to home testing, the time and travel convenience, the smaller sample size, and the availability.
I also think it is vital to empower people to take control of their health as opposed to making them dependent on an overwhelmed healthcare system. The key is to give them the ability to decide when to test and make the testing process as easy and accessible as possible.
Dr Elizabeth Fletcher: I wish there were a blanket answer to this question! Each biomarker is unique, so it responds in its own time frame. Things like insulin and glucagon, proteins involved in food digestion and energy storage, change within minutes - so we don’t measure markers like these. We look at biomarkers that represent more significant and long-lasting differences in health.
Some of the biomarkers we measure, like cortisol, can rise approximately 15 minutes after the onset of stress. Other biomarkers may take a few days, weeks or months to change. Our bodies are so wonderfully complex that when things go wrong, they have at least one if not two backup systems to keep us functioning. That’s why it is so important to keep track of what is happening inside our bodies, so we can uncover poor health trends before they present any symptoms.
One of the members who has been taking the WellBeing tests for nine months has shared their results with us. During this time, their blood biomarkers suggested a health problem, and while the member presented no symptoms, they went to their GP and discovered a number of blood test markers were not within normal ranges. Their GP recommended some lifestyle changes, which they followed, and, in their next WellBeing Test, performed 3 months later most of the blood biomarkers within their test started to move back towards normal.
This case study highlights what I believe is the future of healthcare when we are able to discover and revert poor health trends before they start to impact our wellbeing.
Dr Elizabeth Fletcher: Yes, I do think tracking biomarkers is the best way to manage weight. I say that because managing your weight is a lot more than eating a healthy diet and exercising. A more integrative approach to weight management requires us to look at inflammation levels and biomarkers related to sleep, stress and energy levels.
For instance, if you are not getting good quality sleep, you are more likely to choose high-sugar foods to compensate for the lack of energy.
Listen to Dr Elizabeth Fletcher on the Healthy Her Podcast.
If you want to experience how the latest at-home finger prick blood biomarker measurements can help you to achieve your weight management goals, sign up for the 8-Week Inside Out Challenge, where you will get two WellBeing Tests and 8 weeks of personalised coaching from Amelia Phillips to transform your body from the inside out.